Mt. Kilimanjaro used to be covered with snow. It is mostly all gone now. The glaciers on the mountain will completely melt in the next decade. The people who now depend on the glacial melt for water during the dry season will no longer have this source of water. This will negatively affect the millions of people who now depend upon this water. The same melting is happening on snow-capped Mt. Kenya and the Rwenzori Mountains between Uganda and the Congo.

I regularly read a blog called TomDispatch (see here). Rebecca Gordon, in her article on July 14, who had decided not to have children, wrote the following:

Now, though, as the horrors of climate change reveal themselves daily, I sometimes think that choosing not to bring another resource-devouring, fossil-fuel-burning, carbon-dioxide-emitting American into the world might actually have been the most unselfish thing I’ve ever done.

I am not advocating here that people should not have children, but rather her words, “resource-devouring, fossil-fuel-burning, carbon-dioxide-emitting American.” If I wrote something this provocative people would say that I was just exaggerating, had a chip on my shoulder, was an alarmists, and so. Since she wrote this, and not me, you can’t blame me for an observation written by a writer in the United States.

I am not going to repeat again what I have written on the effects of climate change in Africa. You can read my March 2019 post, Climate Change: Floods and Droughts (here) or a much older one from November 2015, Climate Change and Conflict in Eastern Africa (here). To summarize, due to global warming, Africa is frying in heat and drowning in floods.

I understand from the internet that last weekend much of the United States was also frying. This week Europe is frying.

I want to emphasize how, compared to Kenya, the United State’s responsibility for this global warming is overwhelming.

Using the CIA World Factbook as a source, I calculate that in electricity consumption, the average American uses as much electricity as 496 Kenyans.

I calculate that in oil consumption, the average American uses as much oil as 183 Kenyans.  Moreover American use significant amounts of natural gas, while Kenyans use so little, it is recorded as “0” in the CIA Factbook. Mathematically this would mean that the average American consumes an infinite more amount of natural gas than a Kenyan.

Then in CO2 admission, the average American produces the same amount as 264 Kenyans.

Remember that Kenya is a lower middle income country. For the  much poorer Burundi, the average American produces the same amount of CO2 admissions as 880 Burundians.

The conclusion is that limiting population increase in Kenya is only 0.38 per cent of limiting the same number of Americans. Or in terms of CO2 production, about 264 extra Kenyans can be born for one extra American. As a result Americans need to look into their own live-style and not hope that others in the world will solve the global warming problem.

While it is useful in the US to eat less meat/become a vegetarian, get solar panels on the roof, buy an electric car, and so on for the many possible methods of lowering CO2 and other emissions, these are just small bandages. American culture needs to be profoundly changed with at least a 50% reduction in CO2 and other emissions.

When I was last in the US, I was at the airport waiting to be picked up and I couldn’t believe all the monster-sized SUVs. Why? Forty percent of the US corn crop is being turned into ethanol? Why? I once worked in a McMansion in the DC area which was so big that it had an intercom for people to communicate with each other – this was the home for a couple with one child. Why? I once read that Americans now eat twice as much meat per person as they did in the 1950s when I grew up. Why?

According to the War Resisters League, each person in the United States pays on the average $5636 for current and past military expenditures. The military is one of the greatest polluters and emitters of CO2 in the world. The average per capital income in Kenya is $2010. So the average American spends almost three times as much just on the military than an average Kenyan spends on everything. Why?

This list could continue endlessly. Do these make for more “happiness” or better living?

People who think that global warming can be tackled with minor adjustments so that the vaulted American standard of (excessive) living can be maintained are naïve whistlers in the dark.

At the least the United States needs to cut in half its consumption of goods and the amount of CO2 and other admissions it emits. This can be accomplished only with a drastic reorganization of how Americans live. It cannot be only those who believe in global warming but every American including climate deniers. 

Capitalism is based on the premises that needs are unlimited and growth in consumption is essential for profits. If the United States economy were halved, most companies would go bankrupt and corporate capitalism could not survive. A new economic system would need to be built on its collapse.

In the early 1990’s I had an old van and, when I drove my kids around, when they saw their friends, they would duck and hide so that their friends didn’t see them in my old van. My daughter, Joy, asked me, “Why don’t you get a new car?” I replied, “The van is working fine and fits my needs. There is no need for a replacement.” Joy then responded, “That’s the problem with you, Dad. You are happy with what you have.” I took this as a compliment. People now in the United States need to learn to be happy with half of what they have.

Wake up America.


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David Zarembka

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